A Chief Information Officer (CIO) provides a different service to an IT director in that they take an overview of the business as a whole, not just the individual department. A virtual CIO is an outsourced CIO, perfect for mid-sized firms that are large enough to need a board-level appointment but not large enough to be able to afford or justify a full-time employee.
The appointment of a virtual CIO will not only save your law firm the expense involved in employing its own CIO, it can also help save money in a number of other ways.
Typically, an IT director is someone who began as an engineer and worked their way up through the ranks. While from a technical perspective they bring a huge amount to your firm, they do not have enough business experience and understanding to align the IT system with your business goals. As a board-level appointment, a VCIO must have a great deal of business as well as technical experience. With a company-wide overview, the VCIO will ensure that your firm has the most effective software and hardware, recommending the most appropriate technology solutions across the entire organisation. This will not only save money, it will also result in greater success in achieving your goals. Investing in the wrong technology can be a costly mistake.
Often what happens is that an IT department will look at challenges in isolation, only developing solutions for each problem as and when it occurs. This is a disjointed and inefficient way of working as it ignores the need for integration. We see many clients with piecemeal systems that have evolved over time because no one has had the time or capacity to take an overview of what is being installed. Taking the wider view before making investments means that your firm will install the most suitable and most effective technology every time, and there is no chance of duplicating – and paying for – unnecessary systems and licences.
Reviewing of finances
Having someone with a business mind reviewing the expenditure of the department will also help. All too often, systems get overlapped or aspects of the work are outsourced but not used. We helped one client identify savings of thousands of pounds which they had been spending on an outsourced helpdesk which staff didn’t use. Having someone keep a critical eye on expenditure would have prevented that. Implementing new systems that align with the business needs of the whole firm will not only save money on duplicating systems, it will also significantly increase productivity and efficiency across the whole organisation.
Internal IT function
One of the challenges of IT is that things change very quickly. However good your in-house IT team is, if they do not have the time or opportunity to keep up-to-date with the pace of technology, your firm could be using implementations that are out-of-date, resulting in inefficiencies. With an overview not only of your business and departmental budget but also of what other companies are doing, a VCIO will be able to keep your team up to speed with developments and training.
The recent crisis caused by the Covid-19 virus has given CEOs a reality check about why they need to have robust business continuity plans across the firm as a whole. All too often, the plan is only managed by the IT department in the form of backup tapes. We recently undertook a consultation for a new client who had been unaware that, in the event of a disaster, it would take three to four months to fully restore the backup tapes. No consideration had been given as to how the company could withstand the data loss. A VCIO with a strategic overview can add peace of mind as they can help build a business continuity plan that is both robust and fit for purpose.